14 Comments
May 15Liked by Maxwell Tabarrok

I don't think that an exclusive focus on women who can afford to do IVF and also who choose to do it is sensible. Most babies are going to be born without IVF for a long time. Is this paper trying to claim that there is on motherhood penalty for anyone?

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There are definitely external validity concerns. In Denmark IVF is free for couples with a doctor's referral.

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I haven't engaged much but I hope they are not claiming "there is not penalty."

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May 16Liked by Maxwell Tabarrok

Agreed, the results here do not seem generalizable in the least.

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Similarly, the motherhood penalty has a lot of geographic and racial variation. For example, it's smaller for Black women than for white women. To me, that means the "penalty" isn't always a penalty. I'm sure there are plenty of Black mothers who would like to reduce labor force participation and spend more time with children, but their income or marital situation doesn't let them afford that. I'm skeptical that the IVF sample generalizes.

https://www.henrikkleven.com/uploads/3/7/3/1/37310663/child_penalties_us_pseudo_dec2023.pdf

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"If fertility is falling even though mothers don’t have to sacrifice returns from their career, then economics is not the main motivator of that trend."

This doesn't make sense.

The conventional wisdom was (and probably still is) that there *is* a motherhood penalty. There's no reason to think that these actually women know whether or not they'll have to sacrifice returns from their career, right? So that statement is incorrect.

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Could the plateau also be a result of the time and physical pain involved in IVF? Women undergoing IVF frequently are very focused on doing “all they can” to raise their fertility and their career might also suffer.

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If this is true, it certainly could vitiate the "opportunity cost in the labor market" explanation. That still leaves the opportunity cost of foregone leisure activities.

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Very interesting I was just having them. This conversation was my wife the other day.

Although even if there is a difference, I don't think it's from having a baby. I think it's from taking a lot of time off of work

And I bet men face even a bigger penalty for that

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Yes I think that is the CW here, that the "penalty" is basically due to less time on the job.

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Thank you Max for inspiring me to write this post, the best argument for fertility ever published on substack. https://ishayirashashem.substack.com/p/look-at-cute-babies

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This study ignores expenses and focuses on income. If a woman goes back to work and has a comparable salary that is only a win if it doesn’t require thousands of extra dollars a month in child care. To me that is the motherhood penalty. Choose between part time work, stay at home parent vs pay big for child care.

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Wouldn't the fertility problem be less of an issue if we just got rid of welfare programs for retired people? Or at least get rid of them for people who have less than 2 kids because you should be expected to save for retirement if you're not having kids.

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"It’s further evidence that the opportunity cost of childbirth is not an insurmountable barrier to combining high fertility and high incomes."

If the conclusion is that women wait to have children until they think their incomes will plateau then we should perhaps care more about rates than levels. In other words, high incomes and high fertility may be able to coexist, but income growth and fertility growth wouldn't.

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